At least 20 people, most of them women and children, were killed and several others injured in a stampede in Karachi when a trader was distributing free ration on Monday.
Hundreds of women had gathered for the free ration that was being distributed by a trader to mark the holy month of Ramadan.
The police and civil officials said the stampede occurred because adequate arrangements had not made for the orderly distribution of ration.
Twenty people were killed in the stampede in the congested Khori Garden area in the old quarters of Karachi, said Senior Superintendent of Police Abdullah Shaikh.
He said Chaudhry Iftikhar Mohammad, the trader who had organised the distribution of ration, had been arrested. Officials said most of the deaths were caused by suffocation.
An emergency was declared in hospitals across the city. People rushed the dead and injured to hospitals in private vehicles and trucks before rescue workers reached the site. "The women and children ran when unidentified men started baton-charging the people who had gathered for the ration," a witness said.
A number of women were injured when they slipped and fell from stairs leading to the building where the ration was being distributed.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed shock and grief at the loss of lives in the stampede.
Zardari said authorities should have taken adequate safety measures and ordered an immediate inquiry into the incident.
Gilani has directed officials to ensure that the injured were provided the best medical facilities.Many traders and charitable organisations distribute free food to the poor during Ramadan, the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, which is due to end next week. Prices of food items, especially sugar, have surged since the beginning of Ramadan. Unruly scenes and protests have been witnessed over the past few days at camps organised by the government and charitable groups for the distribution and sale of food items.